End of an Era: recognizing Rahauser

By Sophia Divone
NEWS Reporter


hether he is playing guitar for his Spanish class, following up on a lost bicycle report, or delineating proper ham-mock conduct during a lunch announcement, Tom Rahauser always brings humor and energy to his daily interactions with members of the school community. His approaching retirement from the dean of students position has left faculty members and students with little time to reflect on the impact he has made on their Mercersburg experience and the entire community culture.
Part of Rahauser’s intrinsic ability to connect with and engage the student body resides in the fact that he was a four year attendee of the Academy. While at Mercersburg, he played varsity soccer, basketball, baseball, and was a member of Octet and student council. At his graduation in 1974, he was awarded the Headmaster’s Prize, the Yale Aurelean Prize, and the Mary Jane Berger Prize. After studying at Franklin & Marshall College, Rahauser returned to Mercersburg, where he has served as a Spanish teacher, language department head, varsity soccer, baseball, basketball coach, dorm dean, and member of the Discipline Council, a precursor to the Conduct Review Committee. His tireless commitment to the school community was recognized early on in his career with the Johnson Chair, an award given to young faculty members for excellence in teaching.

Eric Hicks, who has known Rahauser for 25 years, feels fortunate that he “got to see what a master coach does to get a soccer team ready to play (and to become a team)” when he was a novice coach. He also noted that he appreciates Rahauser’s “energy, kindness, and attention to detail to help students at any time of the day.”

Throughout his 21 year tenure as dean of students, Rahauser has fostered a safe learning and living environment for students, and Hicks credits him for creating a supportive atmosphere.
Some of the fondest memories of Rahauser come from students and faculty members who witnessed or experienced his interactive and often times humorous pedagogy. Hicks recalled a lesson in Rahauser’s Spanish class, one in which he repeatedly opened and closed the door fervently exclaiming “abre” and “cerrado.” Everyone in neighboring classrooms thought he had gone crazy. Debbie Rutherford similarly remarked on his engaging teaching style; she loved “hearing him sing and play the guitar in his classroom” when they taught Spanish in adjacent classrooms between 1978 and the mid-1990s. Students also recognized his passion for the Spanish language; to this day he regales them with tales of his travels in Spain, according to Maddie Surmacz ’17.

Rahauser’s ability to impart important life lessons and knowledge to members of the community is not limited to the classroom; Mr. Hicks noted that he “still picks up something important during every conversation [he] has with him. He’s such a great teacher that anyone who gets near him is going to come away with some golden nuggets of wisdom.” Over the years, Rahauser has confronted many difficult disciplinary situations in his job as the dean of students, all the while managing to maintain the dignity of the parties involved while teaching valuable lessons about respect and integrity.
Although Rahauser’s retirement from dean of students is anticipated with nostalgia prompted by the bittersweet end of an era, he will continue to serve in various capacities around Mercersburg and teach a rotation of Spanish class. His retirement is not his swan song but instead an opportunity to fill new roles in the community.

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